... a sprawling, fascinating journey through the dawning decades of the 21st century ... After probing each of these sites through acute observation, extensive interviewing and dogged research, Osnos weaves an intricate tapestry that gradually reveals how Americans experienced the last two decades. Osnos’s depiction most prominently features compelling characters whose lives capture the main points he wants to make about each of his places. Many are memorable ... Although Osnos is at his best as a teller of captivating stories, he does not shy away from probing significant legal and policy changes that enriched Greenwich and impoverished South Chicago and Clarksburg ... Osnos’s keen journalist’s eye is always on the watch for the shocking statistic ... After this jeremiad for a nation in crisis, one wonders how Osnos can possibly suggest a way out. And not surprisingly, given his approach all along, he finds hope in the most American of solutions: initiative by individuals ... somehow, after such a powerful, 400-page disquisition on our nation’s ills, it is hard to believe that will be enough.
Wildland is heavy on context, as Osnos supports his narrative by citing scholars of every stripe ... Wildland is at its best when Osnos offers intimate portraits of the men and women in the three communities on his radar. Even the scoundrels are depicted with sensitivity and empathy ... Wildland is written in first person, which often gives the book a satisfying immediacy ... Sometimes Osnos tries too hard to make the story personal ... Osnos delivers a vivid if dispiriting portrait of West Virginia, where coal companies pollute the water, vulture investors make out like bandits, and workers are abandoned ... Osnos wrote Wildland in real time, meaning he didn’t know how the book was going to end, and my sense is that Osnos is conflicted about his own story. Whatever hope he may have had for an optimistic conclusion is overrun by events.
Osnos compellingly describes life in three places that represent the pre-spark wildland ... Some will find Osnos’s picture too dark, too one-sided. American capitalism still permits many to flourish, and it supplies us with an immense range of goods and services. Yet it is true that Washington is largely hobbled by the needs of campaign finance and the clamor of lobbyists.
At its best, Wildland has an appealing shaggy-dog quality, as Mr Osnos listens to people tell stories of their lives in the two decades since the cataclysm. But as chapter after chapter derides typical liberal bogeymen—guns, money in politics, fossil fuels—it becomes predictable ... oracular, more-in-sorrow-than-anger pronouncements about the country’s fall from grace say more about Mr Osnos’s views and perspective than about America’s trajectory in the 21st century ... lamenting that things would be great if only they went back to how they were before, when citizens cared for each other, is a form of misty-eyed left-wing Trumpism. Those who already agree with Mr Osnos will find confirmation for their beliefs in his book. But, character sketches aside, it will tell most readers very little that they did not already know.
Osnos writes clear prose that expertly summons images from our political past ... Osnos also displays a wry sense of humor and a willingness to weave pop culture into his writing ... a very ambitious book...Many of these subjects receive only surface level analysis and some, like Fox News and other right wing media outlets, seem largely absent. Other than the interviews with the people of Chicago, Clarkesburg, and Greenwich there is not a great deal that is new here, and even the individuals Osnos interviews fit familiar patterns ... At times, Osnos’s efforts to tie together the people from his chosen three communities seem forced ... By largely ignoring the South, Southwest, and West where economic and demographic changes are often most pronounced, Wildland offers a mostly regional view of the experience of being an American in the 21st Century. Together these issues give Wildland a random and incomplete feel that can be frustrating ... For readers who follow politics closely, Osnos offers little fresh information. For others Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury can serve as a well written, wide ranging, if unfocused and shambling, introduction to the sources of our current divisions and the threat they pose to the future of the United States.
In a personal, somewhat autobiographical account intended for concerned Americans, Osnos considers the dissimilitude among residents, which he memorably presents in vignettes illustrating differences in credulousness (of the media and politicians); feelings of safety; and expectations of intergenerational mobility and the American Dream ... This cogently written book is a useful review of intertwined events in the early 21st-century United States.
... stellar reporting that blends a high-altitude view of national changes with close-ups of private citizens in three places he’s lived in the U.S. Osnos is at his best in his superb portrait of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he grew up ... Osnos is slightly less insightful about Chicago, where Black residents have felt stung by the gap between their Obama-era hopes and the persistence of bigotry, and West Virginia, where predatory tactics by so-called vulture investors and others have robbed mineworkers of precious benefits. Other recent books have dealt more astutely with some of his subjects...but as an overview of a fractious ideological landscape, this skillful treatment is hard to beat. An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America.
Osnos vividly sketches hedge-fund managers, ex-cons, Barack Obama, and white nationalist Richard Spencer, among others, and encapsulates worldviews in elegant, pithy prose ... The result is an engrossing and revealing look at how deeply connected yet far apart Americans are.